BlackTop Road – Out July 14 – Produced by Will Kimbrough
The genesis for Angela Easterling’s new album, BlackTop Road, actually started in 1791 in Greer, SC. That’s when her mother’s family started the farm that eventually, as farms go, was cut by a road that now bears their name. It’s not a new story, but it’s a personal story, acutely told by the angelic singer who started writing her second record when she returned home to South Carolina, and began putting together the pieces of place and family to better steer the future by. And, Easterling had only one producer in mind for the project —Will Kimbrough, a multi-award winning artist, musician and producer, known for his solo work and with folks such as Todd Snider, Rodney Crowell, Kate Campbell, and Jimmy Buffett just to name just a few.
It was a shift from the shoestring budget of Easterling’s debut, Earning Her Wings, even though the record won raves – named the top Americana CD of the year by Smart Choice music and emerging on many top-ten lists, landing her on stages with music legend Ray Price, Suzy Bogguss, Radney Foster and Lori McKenna.
But on BlackTop Road, Kimbrough assembled an A-list team — including Al Perkins, Fats Kaplin, Ken Coomer, Anne McCue and Dave Jacques, with Kimbrough filling in the gaps.
“I was very nervous about working with such an esteemed gathering of musicians, but Will was careful to make sure I was at ease and had fun throughout the whole experience,” shares Easterling. “He has great ideas but is always open and willing to try my ideas too, bringing out aspects of my songs I never would have even known were there.”
About the sessions, Kimbrough says, “I produced Angela Easterling’s record, but all I had to do is show up for class and play along. She is a powerful, focused artist who has done her homework: rock-n-roll, country, bluegrass, literature and French pop.”
Easterling’s songs run the range of emotions of a woman fully assessing her family’s past and present with a new life perspective, juxtaposing the personal with outside forces. Anger and fear of the mistreatment of her family and farm sear through the title track, and “The Picture” employs a fictional father-daughter relationship to personalize remnants of America’s shameful past. “Big Wide World,” while playful, is an expression of a modern woman’s frustration, and the book The Lovely Bones provides the backdrop of the haunting “Field of Sorrow,” underscored by banjo and fiddle.
She also explores place and heritage in terms of musical roots, finding kinship with both the famous and familial. She captured the spirit of the wandering soul of A.P. Carter after visiting his home and graveside — tying it in with her own searching on “A.P Carter Blues,” and takes on Neil Young’s “Helpless,” with a sweet mountain vocal. And she updates “Stars Over The Prairie,” not a famous song, but penned by her great-grandfather in the 40s.
“This is a very personal album for me,” says Angela. “There is so much of my family in it. The themes are family and home and looking for a home. I think there is also a theme of where the past, present and future intersect and have an effect on each other. Sometimes it seems like the future is trying to destroy the past. But we can’t escape the past; it still haunts us.”
There is joy here, too, both in love (“Better” and “Just Like Flying”) and in finding oneself exactly where one wants to be (“Birmingham.”) And where she wants to be — is onstage performing. “As much as I love writing, a song doesn’t seem real until you have shared it with others. Then it takes on a life of its own and doesn’t belong to me anymore, it belongs to everyone. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be able to make my way through the world by sharing my music and my stories.”
Easterling was selected as a New Folk Finalist at 2009 Kerrville Folk Festival and offered an official showcase at this year’s Americana Music Conference. “BlackTop Road” was in the top five for radio adds the first three weeks of its release and debuted in the Americana top 40 for airplay in early September. It was also named a top pick in both Oxford American and Country Weekly.
To see recording session photos, click here
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